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My recipe for Macaroni Cheese (or Mac and Cheese) requires some parmesan, but parmesan isn't vegetarian as it uses Rennet.

Are there any Vegetarian or Vegan "free from" parmesan substitutes in the UK that I can buy in a supermarket?

If not, or I can't buy it in a supermarket, is there a general substitute for Parmesan (i.e. another type of cheese) that I can buy in a supermarket?

I don't really mind if it contains milk by the way.

  • 1
    My godfather makes cheese, which I eat, but I don't know if that's an option for you, might be worth looking into. – Petar Vasilev Mar 27 '17 at 7:21
  • is rennet still made from cow stomach lining? I thought we have had genetically engineered bacteria for some time now. – Florian Castellane Mar 27 '17 at 8:35
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    @FlorianCastellane There are other types of rennet but parmesan is traditionally made from calf rennet. In the EU there are actually very strict labelling laws, you can't call it "parmesan" if it's not made with calf rennet (among other things), for example, you'd have to call it "parmesan-style" or something. Elsewhere, it is not so strict. A cheese purist may not appreciate calling a vegetable/microbial rennet based cheese "parmesan". – Jason C Mar 27 '17 at 9:09
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You don't have to go to specialist stores; you can get vegetarian Parmesan in at least three of the major UK supermarkets!

It seems to usually be under each supermarket's "budget" branding. I believe the reason for this is that "Parmesan" is a "DOP" name which means that it has a designated origin and legally has to be made in a particular region and with a particular recipe, which includes animal rennet. Since they're not calling it "Parmesan" but rather "hard cheese", they can do away with the animal rennet and also make it domestically which is cheaper, hence the budget branding:

Sainsbury's

Picture of Sainsbury's Basics "Italian hard cheese"

Source: this site or many other places online.

Tesco's

Picture of Tesco's Everyday Value "Italian style hard cheese" Picture from the back showing "Suitable for vegetarians"

Source: my Tesco's shopping trolley, today.


Morrisons

Morrisons also have vegetarian hard cheese under their "M Savers" brand, which is clearly marked with their green leaf vegetarian motif. This is available in both grated form and in a solid wedge.

Morrisons grated hard cheese

Source: Morrisons' own website.

Since those three large supermarkets offer vegetarian hard cheese, it's reasonably likely that others e.g. ASDA may offer a version.

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Below is a list of places where vegetarian Parmesan-like hard Italian-style cheeses can be found:

  • Twineham Grange Vegetarian Pasta cheese from Bookhams is lovely and can be bought online and from Waitrose.
  • The Better Food Company in Bristol stocks some tasty vegetarian-friendly Parmesan-like cheese.
  • Whole Foods stores, which seem to be growing in number across the UK, also have a couple of varieties of vegetarian Italian hard-cheese.
  • Biona Organic Montello Parmesan Style Cheese does the job and can be found in some health food shops.
  • Colla Vegetarian Italian Cheese Stick, from Ocado (and Waitrose) is also lovely.

Info credit: The Every Day Vegetarian UK

For more info read the whole blog!

9

There is vegetable rennet. You can get parmesan-style cheese with vegetable rennet. Here's a few:

  • Organic Valley uses vegetable rennet in their shredded parmesan as well as their grated variety.
  • Trader Joe's does sell parmesan with vegetable rennet (under the Trader Giotto's brand). They label their rennet source so you can check the label if you go there.
  • Whole Foods also labels the rennet source on their parmesan, so you can browse the cheeses there and you won't have to guess.
  • BelGioioso makes a vegetarian parmesan as well (the one labelled vegetarian).

These are all pretty similar to real parmesan (and they're real cheese, not a substitute), they just use vegetable rennet instead of animal/microbial. They all contain milk.

7

Here's a widely available vegan option: Violife Prosociano. It's sold in health-food shops and Tesco, and online for example at The Vegan Kind

enter image description here

For those who prefer not to use processed foods, I find a combination of hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt does stand in for Parmesan quite convincingly.

2

Yes there are vegetarian versions available, but what you have to bear in mind is that there is a European scheme which protects the origin and quality of traditionally made foodstuffs such that it is illegal to make cheese and label it as "Parmesan" unless it is made in a specific region and with a specific method/recipe. In Europe, anything called "Parmesan" or "Parmiggiano" will always be non-vegetarian. Any vegetarian parmesan substitute is likely to either just be called "hard cheese" or have its own brand name. Outside of Europe however this is not always true since (as far as I know) the scheme is only agreed within Europe.

The European specification for Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese can be found here and contains the following:

Milk coagulation, obtained exclusively by the use of calf rennet, takes place in bell-shaped copper vats; up to two wheels are made for each vat.

(emphasis mine).

Other cheeses which must always be made with animal rennet (in Europe) are Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano (which are both Italian hard cheeses) and Gorgonzola.

There is a page with good information about vegetarian cheese here: https://www.vegsoc.org/cheese

In supermarkets etc. in the UK they often seem to have an "own brand" of "value hard cheese" or "basics hard cheese" etc. which is cheaper than true Parmesan (since it can be made anywhere and does not have to adhere to the same strict method), but is very much like Parmesan in flavour and texture and in my experience has always been suitable for vegetarians.

There are also other Italian hard cheeses which are very similar to Parmesan but which are suitable for vegetarians such as "Granarolo Quattrocento Italian Cheese": Waitrose (UK supermarket) - though note that this example is also lactose free. These other Italian hard cheeses may be of a higher quality and closer to real Parmesan than the previously mentioned "basic"/"value" supermarket hard cheese but this is speculation on my part as I have not tried them.

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Vegan substitute.

(No one will mistake this for parmesan cheese, but it's great on pasta/pizza where you would normally use a grated parmesan.)

In a food processor mix bread crumbs and walnuts with some fresh garlic, olive oil, and nutritional yeast. Salt to taste. Keeps in fridge for quite a while.

This gives a nice savory crumb/powder that you can use in places where ground parmesan would normally be used.

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Tesco and Sainsbury have a line of vegan cheeses. As mentioned above, Violife does ones. If you cannot find an alternative, you can leave it out as it is more of a topping instead of a main ingredient. Or here is a link to a vegan parmesan cheese.

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